Study: Here are the chances you’ll be exposed to COVID-19 in a group setting

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Many of us are eager to get back into larger group settings like throwing a backyard barbecue or going to a concert, but new research is showing the risk you’re putting yourself at if you do that.

By this point we know the more people we’re around and the closer we are, the higher our chances of being exposed to COVID-19.

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A new study from Georgia Tech is breaking down, county-by-county, the risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

The analysis looks at groups of different sizes. For instance, in Mecklenburg County, in a group of 100 people -- which you might find at a church, bar or concert -- there’s a 98% chance at least one person has COVID-19, according to the study.

If one of our meteorologists told you there was a 98% chance of rain tomorrow, you’d probably plan your day differently. Well, that’s similar to how researchers want you to look at this data.

“If you’re thinking about having a group of 100, could you move that to an online format? Can you break it into smaller groups? Is it worth this huge risk that someone shows up who’s infected?” said Mallory Harris, a PHD biology student at Stanford.

Breakdown of area counties:

  • Union County: 94%
  • Gaston County: 98%
  • Cabarrus County: 93%
  • York County: 94%

In surrounding counties, your risk is nearly 90% or higher as well.

The study uses the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Tool, which is an estimate that takes the number of cases reported in the last 2 weeks in each county and multiplies it by a factor.

[Take a look at the tool here]

During a dinner party or backyard barbecue where you’re sharing space with 10 people, the chance at least one person is infected is down from 98% to 34% in Mecklenburg County. In either case, the risk doesn’t go away.

“When we’re saying that there’s an x percent risk that someone shows up to this event infected, that one person could be you,” Harris said. “So it’s really important even if you don’t care about getting the virus, what it would mean for other people and other families.”

It’s important to point out the study only looks at the risk of being exposed, it doesn’t mean that’s your chance of being infected.